Any Questions? info@beandbyias.com /+91 9958826967, 9958294810

LAW OPTIONAL Batch for CIVIL SERVICES 2022 Live classes Starting from 1st March 2021 | For registration call @ 9958294810 or mail at info@beandbyias.com |

Daily Editorials

Municipal budgets as citizen’s budget- Urban Local Self Government

INTRODUCTION:

  • Evidence suggests that citizen participation in budgeting and closer engagement in the monitoring of civic works results in better outcomes and fewer leakages.

UNION AND STATE BUDGET:

  • The Union budget, which lays out the receipt and expenditure proposals of the Government of India, is an annual feature in Parliament on February 1.

  • It receives extensive press coverage — in fact, it sends both TV and print media into a frenzy.

  • State budget: About 30 state governments present their budgets in respective state assemblies. State budgets too receive a certain degree of attention and coverage, albeit far less than the Union budget.

URBAN LOCAL GOVERNMENT:

  • An Urban Local Government or a municipality is the layer of government which has the responsibility of development of cities and towns.

  • The 74th Constitutional Amendment Act (CAA), enacted in 1992, resulted in significant devolution of funds, functions and functionaries to this tier of government and hence functional autonomy of local governments.

  • Like all budget documents, budgets of Municipal Corporations/Councils is also a policy document which provides details of the local body’s sources of income or receipts and use of these resources or expenditure allocated to different heads.

                                       

SIGNFICANCE OF MUNICIPAL BUDGETS:

  • Impacts millions of lives: Budgets that matter most to us, our parents, children, friends and colleagues are city budgets or municipal budgets. Yet, a staggering 4,500+ municipalities in which over 300 million people live present their budgets every year during the budget season.

  • Essential Day to day work: Following all things are determined by these municipal budgets.

    • Are we able to breathe clean air,

    • Do we get clean drinking water in our taps,

    • Is garbage cleared properly and on time,

    • Do we all have access to clean toilets at home and in public spaces,

    • Is our wastewater treated and disposed of safely,

    • Are our children and parents able to walk safely on streets and enjoy public spaces —

  • Better quality of life: The secret to a better quality of life in our cities lies in these city budgets.

  • This is significant because in the government system, allocating budgets is the first step towards getting any piece of work done. Such an initiative has several benefits.

  • It facilitates a targeted, hyperlocal focus on budgeting and problem-solving.

  • It makes citizens feel like they have a voice in civic governance and thereby builds trust.

  • It addresses inefficiencies arising from misplaced prioritisation of civic works relative to citizen needs.

  • Finally, it improves accountability for civic works at the last mile (as citizens would monitor budget execution).

CONCERNS:

  • Little attention: Ironically, it receive little or no attention in the media, except run-of-the-mill, fleeting coverage in the much-neglected city pages.

  • No Citizen participation: At present, most municipal laws don’t provide for citizen participation in budgets or Transparency in civic works and tenders.

  • Unlike the Union budget, the municipal budget is not a financial or legal document.

STEPS TAKEN:

  • “Participatory Budgeting” is a concept that was pioneered in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre in the mid-1980s. It is now practised in one form or other in thousands of cities around the world.

    • India: In India, participatory budgeting in cities was pioneered in Bengaluru in 2001, but took firmer roots in Pune.

  • MyCityMyBudget campaign: First launched in 2015, is gathering traction in Bengaluru, Mangaluru and Visakhapatnam, as a collaborative effort between respective

    • City corporations

    • Neighbourhood communities

  • Crowdsourcing of Ideas: Across Bengaluru, Mangaluru and Visakhapatnam, over 85,000 budget inputs have been crowdsourced from over 80,000 citizens in over 350 wards on a wide range of civic issues such as

    • “yellowspots” (public urination spots),

    • Public toilets,

    • Footpaths,

    • Garbage dumps,

    • Roads and drains.

WAY FORWARD:

  • Citizen and media engagement: Country need greater degrees of citizen engagement and media engagement on these budgets for them to become instruments of real change at a street, neighbourhood and ward level.

  • When there is citizen participation in budgeting and closer engagement of citizens in the monitoring of civic works, there are better outcomes and fewer leakages.

  • 5% municipality budgets as Participatory budget: It would amount to over Rs 7,500 crore nationally! If citizens could work with ward-level engineers to use these funds to get their street lights fixed, make their footpaths walkable, etc. It would make to their lives and the trust it would build between citizens and governments.

  • Vulnerable Sections: Children, women, senior citizens, the differently-abled and several interest groups would be able to make a case for their causes and aspirations and have them fulfilled.

    • This would foster far greater ownership in communities for civic assets and amenities.

    • Thereby resulting in better maintenance and upkeep.

CONCLUSION:

  • It can be an enabler of grass roots democracy in cities and tangible change for communities particularly children, women and the urban poor. Communities and media in cities need to engage more deeply with municipal budgets.

Source: Indian Express

Revising National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013

CONTEXT:

  • The NITI Aayog recently circulated a discussion paper on a proposed revision in the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013.

  • Even the Economic Survey of 2020-21 had recommended a revision in the CIPs.

                                    16 Non-Traditional Security Issues India Should Worry About - Clear IAS

FEATURES OF NFSA:

  • Legal right: under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), the NFSA provides a legal right to persons belonging to “eligible households” to receive foodgrains, at subsidised price–

    • Rice at Rs 3/kg,

    • Wheat at Rs 2/kg and

    • Coarse grain at Rs 1/kg

  • Central issue prices (CIPs): These prices are called central issue prices (CIPs).

NEED OF REVISION:

1. REVISION IN CIPS:

  • A revision of CIPs is one of the issues that have been discussed.

  • The other issues are updating of the population coverage under the NFSA, and

  • Beneficiary identification criteria.

  • Eligible households: Under Section 3 of the Act, the term “eligible households” comprises two categories —

  1. “Priority households”, and

  2. Families covered by the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY).

  • Priority households are entitled to receive 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month, whereas

  • AAY households are entitled to 35 kg per month at the same prices.

2. PRICES VALIDITY AND REVISION:

  • Validity for Three years Period: Under Schedule-I of the Act, these subsidised prices were fixed for “a period of three years from the date of commencement of the Act”.

    • Three-year period was therefore completed on July 5, 2016.

    • However, the government has yet not revised the subsidised prices.

  • Price Revision: The government can do so under Schedule-I of the Act, after completion of the three-year period.

  • Amendment: To revise the prices, the government can amend Schedule-I through a notification, a copy of which has to be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as possible after it is issued.

  • Minimum support price: The revised prices cannot exceed the minimum support price for wheat and coarse grains, and the derived minimum support price for rice.

3. EXTENT OF COVERAGE AND UPDATION:

  • Coverage under eligible households: The Act has prescribed the coverage under “eligible households” —

    • 75% of the rural population and up to

    • 50% of the urban population.

  • 81.35 crore persons: On the basis of Census 2011 figures and the national rural and urban coverage ratios, 81.35 crore persons are covered under NFSA currently.

  • Section 9 of the Act: It deals with an update of coverage of population under the Act.

    • Centre to decide: It states: “The percentage coverage under the Targeted Public Distribution System in rural and urban areas for each State shall be determined by the Central Government.

    • Census use: Total number of persons to be covered shall be calculated on the basis of the Census.

  • Demand from States: Thus, the number of NFSA beneficiaries was frozen in 2013. However, given the population increase since then, there have been demands from the states and union territories to update the list.

  • Alternative methodology: It was in this context that the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution had asked the NITI Aayog to suggest an alternative methodology for “covering beneficiaries under NFSA, including prospective beneficiaries”.

NITI Aayog Recommendation:

  • NITI Aayog has suggested that the national rural and urban coverage ratio be reduced from the existing 75-50 to 60-40.

  • if this reduction happens, the number of beneficiaries under the NFSA will drop to 71.62 crore (on the basis of the projected population in 2020).

  • To make these changes in the law, the government will have to amend Section 3 of the NFSA. For this, it will require parliamentary approval.

  • Authority associated: Besides the Food Ministry and the NITI Aayog, discussions on the proposed revisions include the Chief Economic Adviser and top officers of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

IMPLICATION OF THE REVISION:

  • Saving of 47,229 crore: If the national coverage ratio is revised downward, the Centre can save up to Rs 47,229 crore (as estimated by the NITI Aayog paper).

    • However, the move may be opposed by some of the states.

  • Population Coverage Change: If the rural-urban coverage ratio remains at 75-50, then the total number of people covered will increase from the existing 81.35 crore to 89.52 crore —an increase of 8.17 crore.

  • Additional subsidy requirement: It will result in an additional subsidy requirement of Rs 14,800 crore.

SOURCE: Indian Express

Government Regulation for Digital Content, Social Media and OTT platforms

CONTEXT:

  • Union Government, in a long-anticipated move, notified guidelines that seek to provide a grievance redressal mechanism for users of digital platforms of all kinds —
  1. Social media sites,

  2. Messaging apps,

  3. Over-the-top (OTT) streaming services, and

  4. Digital news publishers.

  • The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 mandates that

    • Social media and messaging platforms will have to adhere to new requirements in assisting investigative agencies of the government.

  • “Soft-touch oversight” mechanism: Minister said they were a “soft-touch oversight” mechanism to deal with issues such as the

    • Persistent spread of fake news and

    • Misinformation.

                                        Insights into Editorial: How will the government regulate online news and OTT  platforms? - INSIGHTSIAS

NEW RULES MANDATE ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS:

1. No Uniform Code: There is no single set of rules that uniformly applies to the different kinds of digital platforms.

2. Broad themes: The broad themes of the guidelines revolve around

  1. Grievance redressal,

  2. Compliance with the law, and

  3. Adherence to the media code.

3. Grievance officer for Social media platforms:  Like Google or Facebook will now have to appoint a grievance officer to deal with users’ complaints.

4. Chief Compliance Officer’ for intermediaries: There are additional requirements on ‘significant’ social media intermediaries — meaning the platforms whose registered users in India are above the threshold notified by the government.

  1. Such intermediaries have to appoint a ‘Chief Compliance Officer’ to ensure that the rules are followed;

  2. He/she “shall be liable in any proceedings relating to any relevant third-party information, data or communication link made available or hosted by that intermediary”.

5. Nodal contact person: The intermediaries will also have to appoint a nodal contact person for “24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies”.

6. First originator of the information: Social media intermediary would have to “enable the identification of the first originator of the information on its computer resource” as may be required by a judicial order.

New IT Rules 2021

7. Offensive Messages origin: In other words, a problematic message, that is considered “an offence related to

  • Sovereignty and integrity of India,

  • Security of the State,

  • Friendly relations with foreign states, or

  • Public order, or

  • Incitement to an offence relating to the above or

  • In relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material”, will have to be traced to its initiator on messaging applications like WhatsApp and Signal.

8. Three-tier structure for grievance redressal: For digital publishers of news and current affairs as well as video streaming services, an identical three-tier structure for grievance redressal has been mandated.

9. Code of Ethics: The Code of Ethics includes:

  • ‘Norms of Journalistic Conduct’ as prescribed by the Press Council of India, as also

  • Content that shall not be published — “content which is prohibited under any law for the time being in force shall not be published or transmitted”, and

  • Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.

10. Classification of Content by OTT: The guidelines also require streaming services to classify content based on its nature and type.

  • So, for instance, content “for persons aged 16 years and above, and can be viewed by a person under the age of 16 years with parental guidance shall be classified as U/A 16+”.

NEED OF THESE RULES:

1. Stricter regulation of digital media: The question of stricter regulation of digital media has come up unceasingly in different forms and forums over the last few years.

2. Sudarshan TV v. Minority Case: The issue came up when the Supreme Court was hearing a case involving Sudarshan TV. SC asked the government to improve the self-regulatory mechanism for electronic media.

  • The government also highlighted the need to regulate web-based media.

3. Face-off b/w the government and Twitter: Over the Twitter’s non-compliance with its order to block several hashtags and handles of journalists, activists and politicians in the backdrop of the ongoing farmers’ protests.

  • Twitter eventually complied, though not fully.

4. Demand in Parliament and SC:  Accountability for the spread of fake news and pornographic content have been raised in Parliament and by the Supreme Court.

5. Tandav case: There have been many controversies involving content on OTT platforms. For ex. case against the makers of Tandav for hurting religious sentiments.  Similarly complaints were made for Sacred Games, Asur, Aashram Web series.

  • There have been calls to censor content that appears on digital platforms.

CHNAGES MADE:

  • Expanded regulation: The scope of regulation of the digital space has been expanded. The 2011 rules were a narrower set of guidelines for intermediaries.

  • The new guidelines not only replace the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, but also regulate

    • Digital news publishers and

    • Streaming services, which was not the case earlier.

  • Section 79 of the Information Technology Act: The intermediaries are not liable for user-generated content, provided they adhere to the rules — “an intermediary shall not be liable for any third-party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by him,” it states.

    • These rules have been tightened now.

CRITICISM:

1. Governmental regulation: For digital news media, these guidelines will subject it to governmental regulation in a way.

2. Oversight by Government: The three-tier structure of regulation will entail oversight by a government committee at the highest level.

3. Excessive governmental control: Any grievance that does not get satisfactorily solved at the self-regulatory levels will get escalated to the government panel.

  • The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), a digital liberties organisation, refers to this as “excessive governmental control over digital news and OTT content”.

4. Traceability of the originator: IFF also criticised the requirement of traceability of the originator of a problematic message.

  • Govt Response: It will not be required “where other less intrusive means are effective in identifying the originator of the information”.

5. To disclose the contents: Govt suggests that in identifying the originator, “no significant social media intermediary shall be required to disclose the contents of any electronic message”.

  • IFF reckons that the government has powers under the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009, to make demands for the content of the messages.

6. Censorship and surveillance: The rules have also been criticised for increasing the potential for censorship and surveillance.

7. Restriction of free speech: Critics have said some of these guidelines will lead to restriction of free speech.

SOURCE: The Hindu